I went through a lot titles on this one. A sampling:
A Day of Four Miracles
(Because I never thought Diego Chara would score one goal, never mind two; then Maximiliano Urruti got one which let me believe in miracles, if only for a moment.)
Ref in Rave Green
(I try not to let bad officiating get to me, especially when it comes to bias, because I know it’s a tough job; also, I rely on video replay a lot to confirm that I’m not the crazy one; absent replay, I make wild accusations that may not hold.)
Ruining Diego’s Special Day
(People kept saying it was Chara’s birthday; I don’t know these things, but the Timbers collectively owe Chara a brand-new birthday cake…even if it isn’t his birthday.)
I chose because one I did because one thing about the game stood out. Though distracted by all the “live-tweeting” (which I really must stop doing) and the absence of a replay, I saw enough to count that the most incompetent, insanely inconsistent refeering I have seen in years. I want Hilario Grejada the fuck out of the referee pool. I’d rather watch the scabs, the alleged amateurs, and can’t believe that anyone else wouldn’t agree. We got the referee pool skimmings for this game.
Am I bitter about the penalty? Absolutely, but not because it went against the Portland Timbers. It was unconscionable because, to that point, Grajeda had called the game as if he was consulting darts thrown at some dartboard in his head, or maybe the configurations of the blades of grass near his feet. The latter holds up because he clearly wasn’t watching the game. It seemed like I would reliably make the call opposite the one Grajeda did on the field. When you’re that all over the place as a referee, when you miss hand-balls all over or just blow them off, you have no business deciding the game – especially not the ultimate decision, the penalty kick.
That’s that, I guess. So…how’d the teams do?
The Seattle Sounders turned in an almost implausible defensive game. Excerable, even, or whatever the adjective comes closest to literally meaning “shitty.” Osvaldo Alonso was virtually missing from his usual haunt, but every Sounder gave Portland baffling amounts of space and generally failed to close down. And all over the field. The one thing Seattle has done well this year was press intensely and high – and that accounted for 65% minimum of my pre-game anxiety. With key Timbers players passing tentatively so far this year (e.g. Will Johnson and Diego Valeri), this felt like the biggest problem.
The Sounders came out flat, as I saw it, and that became their problem. As much as I understand backing off Chara – because the man typically shoots with toddler-level ferocity – he clearly can score. He’ll even do it twice, if you let him. Urruti’s goal came from a similar breakdown, if a more understandable one (DeAndre Yedlin was upfield while Seattle pushed for the equalizer). So, yeah, Seattle defended like absolute shit, allowing an attack idling at a couple gears below sputtering to knock four goals past them. And Diego Valeri scored a beauty.
OK, so Seattle let in four goals and looked bloody awful. What does that say about Portland?
That collapse was harrowing, even bad-dream unreal. For all that the penalty’s a pisser, Portland lost control of a game of which they were very much in charge. As in, very much…more on that later. The Timbers will struggle, and terribly, until they master the skill of defending set-pieces. They would have picked up this by now, because, professional soccer players. Seattle opened the game scoring on a set-piece (though the Timbers held ’em off mightily to the second half of the third minute!) and they picked up chance after chance after chance via the same channel, whether it was the ball bouncing in and (repeatedly) around Portland’s 18-yard box, or leaving Chad “This Is My Bread And Butter” Marshall wide open on every third corner. The outright scrappiness of Seattle’s goals says everything one needs to know, really. Those goals come when you’re not on top of your shit defensively. At least make Clint Dempsey do something besides flail toward your goal for that hat-trick. That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask…
There is one silver lining in today’s outing. For about 20 minutes, this was during the time Portland was up, the Timbers passed and moved with the ease and flow of last season’s better games. The ball cycled around wonderfully, always a step ahead of whichever Seattle player (half-heartedly) attempted to slow it down. The players looked light, confident, and comfortable; they were visibly “feeling it.” The team can get back to those good steady patches from last season, the ones that let a team rack up the wins, once they sustain that tempo and quality for larger parts of the game. One doesn’t see a lot of start-to-finish domination in soccer, just sayin’…Anyway, that was nice.
What else to do? We need to do something about that soft, squishy center of defense. I’m to where I want to see Pa Modou Kah paired with “Futty” Danso; it’s time to bring back the Twin Towers of the Gambia, people. They’re not great, but at least we get foot-speed with Danso.
As for the rest, my perception of Seattle’s defensive day makes me wary of declaring the goal-scoring floodgates open. I’ll cling to that magical 20 minutes instead. At root, though, this goes down as one of the most disappointing, maddening games I’ve ever watched. Part of me wants to watch the game again, to learn a little more about what went wrong. A larger part of me knows I don’t have the effort in me.
More later, probably, after the highlights. Jee-zus!